Lessons from ‘No-Print Day’ Debacle –MichelsonJuly 2012
I can’t recall an issue that got the printing industry at large more fired up of late than Toshiba America Business Solutions’ ill-conceived “National No-Print Day” campaign, which encouraged people and companies not to print or copy anything on Oct. 23 to help “raise awareness of the impact that printing has on our planet.” Most perturbing, perhaps, is the fact that Toshiba is actually a supplier to the graphic arts industry, providing multifunction color printers/copiers, scanners and consumables like toner cartridges.
First reported in the Dead Tree Edition blog and covered extensively in our free, daily e-newsletter (subscribe at www.PIworld.com), Michael Makin, president and CEO of Printing Industries of America, was the first to come out swinging. He issued a special announcement to his membership about the ridiculousness of such a proposal and its insult to the more than 800,000 Americans who directly owe their livelihood to our industry. Similar rebuffs followed from The Print Council, NAPL, various bloggers and via social media posts on Twitter and Facebook.
The No-Print Day initiative also made inaccurate statements about the sustainability of paper and its impact on the environment, which, in turn, generated a heated response from Two Sides, an advocacy for the forestry, paper, printing and publishing industries. Like Makin, Two Sides accused Toshiba of “greenwashing” the environmental issues surrounding print-based vs. electronic communications. It referenced widespread paper recycling, as well as the reforestation efforts of North American paper manufacturers. (There are actually 20 percent more trees growing today than there were on the first Earth Day in 1970.)
Toshiba eventually cancelled its No-Print Day as grassroots opposition mounted, claiming its campaign was only meant to draw attention to unnecessary printing and paper waste within office environments.
Nevertheless, the Toshiba saga illustrates a widespread perception that papermaking and printing are less sustainable than electronic communications, and that the manufacturing processes create much larger carbon footprints. It's a myth that's hard to overcome, most likely because consumers don't think about what goes into manufacturing and powering their computers, smart phones and tablet devices—let alone where those toxic-laden components end up once discarded.
It was great to see our industry’s aggressive response to No-Print Day. But, it also showed the lack of a single voice or catchy pitch to carry our message home. That might require more “Toshiba moments.”
Mark T. Michelson